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Golden Gate Fields is a horse racing track straddling both Albany, California and Berkeley, California along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay adjacent to the Eastshore Freeway in the San Francisco Bay Area. With the closing of the Bay Meadows racetrack on May 11, 2008, it became the only major racetrack in Northern California.
The track is set on 140 acres (0.57 km2) of land in the cities of Albany and Berkeley. Golden Gate Fields' facilities currently include a one-mile (1,609 m) synthetic track and a turf course measuring 9/10 of a mile, or 7 furlongs plus 132 feet (1,448 m), stalls for 1,420 horses, a main grandstand with seating for approximately 8,000 customers, a clubhouse with seating for approximately 5,200 customers, a Turf Club with seating for approximately 1,500 customers and parking for over 8,500 cars.
Golden Gates Fields features a Tapeta main track that is impervious to weather and never turns to mud. The engineered track made Golden Gate Fields the eighth horseracing facility in the country to install the advanced racing surface. Tracks using the engineered surfaces have found them to be safer and kinder to horses in all kinds of weather.
The racetrack is situated on a tract of land bordered on the west by Fleming Point, a rocky promontory which lies on the eastern shoreline of San Francisco Bay. On the north, it is bordered by the Albany Bulb, Albany Beach and Albany Plateau, undeveloped terrain over a former landfill, owned by the City of Albany. To the east is Interstate 80 and to the south, the Berkeley Meadow. This tract lies on what was once a part of the slough into which three creeks drain: Schoolhouse Creek, Codornices Creek and Marin Creek. The tract had originally been that portion of the Rancho San Antonio owned by José Domingo Peralta. He sold it in July 1852 to John Fleming, who used it as a transhipment point for sending his cattle across the bay to San Francisco for slaughter and processing. Later in the 19th century, it was the site of the Giant Powder Company, a manufacturer of black powder, dynamite and nitroglycerin. Between 1879 and 1892, the plant blew up four times.
Just before World War II, Golden Gate Fields built its new grandstand up against the eastern slope of Fleming Point, and adjacent marshland was filled in for the track. The inaugural meet was on February 1, 1941. In the period just before the war, the track was used as the scene of the crime central to the plot of the movie Shadow of the Thin Man. With the onset of World War II, the United States Navy took over the property as the "Albany Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot" for storing hundreds of landing craft destined for use in the Pacific theater. After the war, Golden Gate Fields resumed horse racing.
Golden Gate Fields was owned and managed for 25 years by foreign car importer and horseman Kjell Qvale. It was subsequently acquired by Magna Entertainment Corp.. In March 2009, Magna filed for bankruptcy. The Stronach Group, the current owners, acquired Golden Gate Fields on July 3, 2011.
In 1950, Citation and Noor met in the Golden Gate Handicap. The English bred Noor beat the great Triple Crown winner Citation, prompting Citation's rider, Steve Brooks, to say, "We just can't beat that horse."
In 1957, the horse Silky Sullivan came to the track and with him came the excitement that followed him throughout his life. Until the death of Lost in the Fog, he was also the only horse to be buried in the infield. Lost in the Fog's plaque is the third to be placed at Golden Gate Fields, found near the one for Silky Sullivan and that for Bill Shoemaker. The infield turf course was opened on February 22, 1972.
In 1974, the first $2 million dollar day in Northern California was held on California Derby Day.
In 1984, the great gelding John Henry set a course record winning the Golden Gate Handicap.
Before his death in 2006, Lost in the Fog was based here. On September 17, 2006, he was euthanized due to inoperable tumors found on his spleen and along his spine. Prior to his early death, Lost in the Fog ran three races at his home base - winning twice, and placing once. On September 30, 2006 Golden Gate Fields held a celebration of his life.
During the summer of 2007, the racetrack installed a polymer synthetic type racing surface as mandated by the California Horse Racing Board. The Tapeta Footings synthetic all-weather racing surface is designed to make racing safer for both horses and riders.
On February 1, 2008, on board the horse Two Step Cat, Russell Baze got his 10,000th career win as a jockey.
The multiple Graded stakes winning Hystericalady, half sister to Funny Cide and Commentator, is based here.
With the loss of Bay Meadows to developers in 2008, Golden Gate Fields has become Northern California's only major racetrack (aside from racetracks that host the summer fair circuit). Its stakes schedule (graded and ungraded) is in flux as officials of California racing shuffle the racing season. Golden Gate Fields may return to offering both Spring and Autumn racing, with more racing dates. On May 2, 2009, the Silky Sullivan Handicap ran again after a hiatus of two years.
Thursday - Sunday
Year-round, except for July
Main Track: One mile, oval.
Distance from last turn to finish line: 1,000 feet.
Turf Course: 9/10 mile.
1:15 pm, 3:45 pm select Fridays
Win, place, and show: 15.43 %(16.77% during Fairs)
All exotic wagering: 20.68%(22.02% during Fairs)
2 horse exotics: 22.68%
3 or more horse exotics: 23.68%
Golden Gate Fields
1100 Eastshore Highway
Berkeley, CA 94710
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